“Keeping up-to-date on your routine vaccinations is one simple way to safeguard your travel health,” according to Dr. Fatima Memon, who practices internal medicine at Sutter East Bay Medical Foundation and is a Sutter Delta Medical Center-affiliated physician. “There are also recommended or required vaccinations specific to travel destinations. Some vaccines need to be given over days or weeks, so see your doctor four to six weeks in advance of travel to ensure that the vaccines have time to take effect.”
If you plan to travel in less than four weeks, your doctor can still help by giving you necessary medications and information to protect your family from illness and injury. “If you’re pregnant, it’s particularly important that you see your doctor,” said Memon. “Travel is not recommended for women in their third trimester of pregnancy. If your doctor determines that it’s safe for you to travel, ask which medications are OK for you to take if you’re prone to airsickness or seasickness.”
Blood clots are another concern for pregnant women traveling long distances. To increase circulation, be sure to get up every 30 minutes to stretch your legs if your travel plans involve sitting for longer than five hours. To prevent leg swelling, buy a pair of support stockings.
Don’t forget your family’s travel health – vaccinations aren’t the only thing they’ll need. Infants and children are especially vulnerable to food- and water-borne illnesses such as diarrhea. “Because they’re smaller, children and infants can become dehydrated from traveler’s diarrhea much faster than adults,” said Memon. “Good hygiene is the best way to prevent illness. Frequent handwashing and disinfecting toys, pacifiers and bottles will help. Breast-feeding infants is a good way to reduce their risk of contracting a water- or food-borne illness.”
Outside the United States, there are precautions you can take to protect your family from getting sick. Drink carbonated beverages or bottled water with an intact seal, and don’t brush your teeth with tap water. Avoid fresh fruits and vegetables unless they’re cooked or you peel them yourself, and don’t eat raw or undercooked meat or fish.
Stay healthy on your vacation by preparing a traveler’s health kit. Include all the essentials such as bandages, a thermometer, antibiotic ointment, hand sanitizer, ibuprofen and bug repellant. Sunscreen (SPF 15 or higher) is a good idea for sunny destinations – and don’t forget prescription sunglasses.
“Family members who are taking prescription medications should be sure to pack a one-month supply along with copies of their prescriptions, in case they need refills,” added Memon. “Be sure you know the generic names of all prescription medications because brand names differ by country.”
With a few simple steps, you can stay healthy away from home – and be in good health when you return.
Julie Ruiz-Wibbelsmann is the writer and publications coordinator for Sutter Health East Bay Region.